Archives for the month of: February, 2011

An update and cabinets: Part One.

About a year ago I was doing some work with a consultant who described a situation he was in. He referred to it as “starting with a ‘d’ and rhyming with ‘mama.'”

Yep, we’ve had a bit of this lately so you’ll have to excuse the rarity of recent posts. All is well though, or at least it will be in the long run. Like anything in life, there are going to be speed bumps and barriers and learning curve and personalities and frustration. There will also be joy and awe and inspiration and personalities and gratitude.

One of the things I’ve been most excited about is the cabinetry and casework. We’ve put a ton of time into thinking through what we want aesthetically and functionally. K and I both lean towards the functional, but at the same time want something beautiful and that stirs something a bit…emotional I guess is the word.

A hallmark of Shaker cabinetry is restraint, simplicity and craftsmanship.

My father is a cabinet maker, so this goes a long way towards getting what we want. It also represents a pretty unique opportunity. The chance to work on something together will be special.

Originally we had some pretty involved ideas. Involved as in complicated and (even though our labor is free) expensive. When it comes to woodworking there’s an irony. In general, the simpler the look you want, the more work, precision and fussy details you need to expect. In other words, simple = difficult.

So for example, if you want a drawer to fit perfectly into an opening without trim, or wood overlapping or exposed hardware, it’s going to take a lot of time, effort or expensive equipment. Sometimes all three.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time looking at friends’ houses and magazines. We also spent a lot of time talking about what we liked about our old house, how we like to cook. We talked about what we want and what we don’t want.

In our old house we pulled all of the door fronts off of the upper cabinets to make it easier to access everything from plates to spices. Eventually we had to add a few upper doors because our dog was jumping up on the counters and stealing bags of chocolate chips from the top shelves. Nice.

We added wood countertops to our old kitchen and loved them. Solid, warm, beautiful. So that’s something to include too.

The pantry in our old turn-of-the-century house. This was after the doors had to be installed to thwart our thief of a dog.

We’re big fans of exposed joinery. Showing off dovetails or finger joints or through-mortises is our ideal. It shows how the piece is put together and is very Japanese and Craftsman in its aesthetic. But back to the introduction, this is also fussy work. There’s a reason that face-frame cabinetry is so popular. It’s strong, relatively simple to construct and fast.

In the right house some of the modular Italian cabinetry is fun to look at. It’s clean, organized and keeps everything out of sight. It’s also a bit too rigorous for us. Never having anything on display or easily accessible would be a pain. We felt like we’d be constantly opening and closing doors and drawers to find a spoon, a pot or the refrigerator. Too much. Plus, in my opinion I don’t think this kind of kitchen wears well. Chip the veneer on a cabinet front and it’s obvious, and looks like hell. If you’ve ever bought anything from Ikea made from melamine you’ll likely know what I mean.

Can't you imagine it? "My kitchen is the same color as my Ferrari. And I cook as well as I drive."

On a business trip to Seattle a couple of years ago I stopped in the Henrybuilt showroom. Crazy beautiful stuff. Crazy expensive, too. And while K likes their look, it’s not exactly what she wants either. But if you can afford $80k in cabinetry for your kitchen, check it out. Beautiful. Oh, they also have a lower cost line called Viola Park that’s quite nice too.

Henrybuilt. Batshit beautiful.

There’s a company called Kerf that does some cool stuff too. I like it, but overall it’s a bit too far to the mid-century side of the spectrum.

Kerf Design. Get your Eichler on.

Then I stumbled upon a company called Hansen Kitchen. This is a Danish outfit run by an architect. Fantastic. Their philosophy is very similar to what we want. They eschew cabinet doors (vs. drawers), use primarily solid wood and have a very clean, modular design. The modular aspect is especially appealing since we’ll build these ourselves and time is an influencer.

Check out the image below of the finger-jointed legs. Originally I wanted to copy/adapt this idea. Really strong design, and while difficult wouldn’t be too horrendous. It would require a ton of wood though. I would have been OK with this, but because of the earlier drama I alluded to we’ll be taking on quite a bit more work ourselves, so something a bit more straightforward might be the right choice for us.

Up next: Why I just ordered 100+ feet of countertops, and an emerging design.

I’m not typically one to over share about certain things beyond a pretty small group of friends and family. This is especially true for blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

But K made my day today. Sometimes a reminder about the real reason for building a house is important. That reason? Because we’re building a life together, not just a house.

What can say about yesterday’s post? I never meant to hurt you. Compared with the importance of our family, MH doesn’t mean anything to me. Plus, whenever I’m with her I’m thinking of you and L. Truly, it’s not what you think. Plus, I’m learning new things that make our relationship more exciting!

OK, that’s about the extent of my wittiness this morning.

Big visual change this week, at least to us. Dan from Northwest Excavators is just about done with backfilling the walls and house. We’ll need a final, final grading job later this spring, but what a difference already. Suddenly the house is in better context with the land around it. And I think I said this once before, but watching Dan and Tom operate their giant machines with such precision is a pretty amazing thing.

More to come, but here are a few pictures.

Dear Meadow House,

I am wise to your ways. I have watched you sashay into our lives and lure my husband with your sleek lines, galvanized hardware and maddeningly fabulous SIPS panels. We used to talk about life, family, this and that – my husband and I. But now all I hear is glu-lams, footings, electrical chases, call-outs, pump trucks, window schedules and over budget.

Don’t think I’m not aware of what’s going on when he skirts out of the house with nary a glance backward, calling “I’m going to the site to do some work.” You have succeeded in beguiling him with your promise of modern living in an extremely well sited house with radiant-floor heating. This is true. But enough already. I want my husband back!

You are empty, Ms. Meadow House. Empty! And you will never know the real meaning of love until you are filled with the sounds and routines, the messes and surprises of a family.


His wife